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Action Alert: Say No to the Illiana Tollway

August 20, 2013


Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has asked the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)--the agency charged with developing Chicagoland’s regional plans--to add the proposed Illiana tollway to its limited list of priority major capital projects and include it in the region’s transportation plan.

The proposed tollway directly conflicts with CMAP’s comprehensive GO TO 2040 regional plan, which calls for "more compact, mixed use development and transportation investment, targeted to achieve outcomes such as strategic investment, economic growth, environmental protection, and congestion reduction."

The proposed tollway would stretch 47 miles from I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana, largely through agricultural hamlets 10 miles south of the urban fringe. It would pass right next to the Des Plaines Conservation Area and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, endangering critical habitat for grassland birds and other state and federally endangered wildlife.

 

The speculative, 1.25-billion dollar tollway project poses too great an economic risk to both taxpayers and private investors for too little payoff.  IDOT grossly overstates economic benefits, and the project would likely siphon funds from other regional priorities already included in the GO TO 2040 plan. With strained financial resources, we need to invest in sustainable and strategic solutions, not projects such as Illiana that would undermine key regional planning efforts.

 

We have until September 3 to tell CMAP that, based on its own staff analysis, the proposed Illiana Tollway will seriously undermine the GO TO 2040 plan, increasing sprawl and damaging irreplaceable natural wonders in its path.

How you can help: contact CMAP and tell them you are opposed to adding Illiana to Chicago's comprehensive regional plan. Openlands has provided the sample letter below as a suggestion.

 

Please write to CMAP, ATTN Plan and TIP amendments, 233 S. Wacker Dr., Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60606. Comments can also be made via e-mail or phone (312-454-0400).

To: CMAP Board and Staff

Please do not add the Illiana Tollway to the GO TO 2040 Plan. It undermines the plan's collaborative vision, core principles, and recommendations. As your own staff report states, the road is inconsistent with the plan’s call for investing in existing communities and modernizing our current transportation and infrastructure assets. With road costs projected to be over a billion dollars, the Illiana Tollway would siphon off funds for projects already in the plan which fit the plan's priorities. Located 10 miles outside the existing urbanized area, the proposed tollway would foster sprawl rather than support existing communities.

The Illiana is an overpriced and unsustainable project for a number of reasons:

  • IDOT hasn't shown how tolls could generate enough revenue to cover the $1 billion plus cost of the road.
  • CMAP observed that the IDOT cost estimates for the road are much lower than other similar major capital projects across the nation.
  • If the remotely-located Illiana Tollway does not generate needed tolls, the public will likely need to bail out the project.
  • There are better investments for our limited transportation dollars than this speculative project.
  • The Illiana tollroad will diminish the habitat value along the border of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, a globally significant natural wonder, and at the Des Plaines Conservation Area, and will degrade the high quality waters of the Kankakee River.
  • The Illiana will pave over rich productive agricultural land and farms that have been owned by families for generations.

The Chicagoland region cannot afford this expensive project that is inconsistent with the principles of the Go To 2040 Plan. Please continue to protect CMAP's responsible and sustainable vision for the region and do not add the Illiana Tollway to the Go To 2040 Plan.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]

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